MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon: What is the feeling among fans?

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MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon: A potted history

Two teams that need no introduction to each other are AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons.

The story of how the clubs intertwine is well documented but takes its roots from 2002, when second-tier side Wimbledon were without a permanent home and deep in financial uncertainty.

A consortium led by Pete Winkelman decided to take the club from south London to Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire - after having the controversial move approved by an independent commission.

Since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge and neither side can agree on everything that actually happened.

But what is true is that the club set up by Wimbledon supporters 14 years ago in protest to the move now finds itself in the same division as Winkelman's MK Dons.

More than that, the phoenix club AFC Wimbledon are above MK Dons in the League One table ahead of their first-ever league meeting.

They have played against each other in the FA Cup, League Cup and Football League Trophy - but there is something different about a league match. So BBC Sport wanted to find out what fans of both clubs feel going into Saturday's match at Stadium:MK.

Three clubs, three stories
Wimbledon FC were founded in 1889 and climbed from non-league to the Premier League. Renowned for their direct style of football, their most famous moment was their FA Cup final victory over Liverpool in 1988.
AFC Wimbledon were formed in 2002 by Wimbledon FC supporters dismayed by the Football Association's decision to allow the club to move to Milton Keynes. Since their creation they have risen from the ninth tier of English football to League One, having reached the Football League in 2011.
After Wimbledon FC moved to Milton Keynes in 2003, they were renamed Milton Keynes Dons in 2004. They achieved promotion to the Championship for the first time in 2015, but were relegated after one season.

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AFC Wimbledon face 'Bogeymen FC' MK Dons

The boycotters

A win could take AFC Wimbledon into the third-tier promotion places - but even a match of this importance cannot tempt some into travelling north for the game.

Simon Wheeler, chairman of Wimbledon Independent Supporters' Association, has proclaimed he will never set foot in Stadium:MK, even organising boycotts for teams other than AFC Wimbledon playing in Milton Keynes between 2003 and 2006.

AFC Wimbledon
AFC Wimbledon celebrate winning the League Two play-off final in May, after beating Plymouth 2-0

Wheeler, who has met Winkelman on a number of occasions, is one of several AFC fans wanting MK Dons to drop the final part of their name, but insists it is up to individual fans whether or not they choose to go to the match.

"Initially with the FA Cup game [the first meeting in 2012], MK were making a big thing about it and trying to build up a rivalry," he told BBC Sport.

"Us Wimbledon supporters were saying it's not a rivalry; they have done a lot of damage, caused a lot of pain and done a lot wrong with the way they got their formation.

"Now we are in the same league as them, we are competitive in that league and, more importantly, above them.

"They are effectively having a club set up by the fans, because of the theft of Wimbledon's Football League place, sitting above them in the same league as them. It must be incredibly embarrassing."

Pete Winkelman
Winkelman, seen here celebrating MK Dons' promotion to the Championship in 2015, was instrumental in their creation

A prominent feeling among AFC Wimbledon fans is to question why Winkelman did not start with a club in non-league and, like them, work their way up.

AFC began in the Combined Counties League in 2002, after trialling players on Wimbledon Common, and 14 years later find themselves in League One.

"They were presented with a place in the Championship, a brand new stadium and an eight-division head start over us, all on a plate," said AFC Wimbledon season-ticket holder Chris West, another who will not be going to the game.

"Catching them up so quickly just shows what can be done when a community club pulls together and how, despite his promises of creating a festival of football in Milton Keynes, Winkleman has squandered the opportunity he was presented with."

The ex-Wimbledon FC fan, now MK Dons supporter

Ever since the move to Milton Keynes and the 30,000-seater Stadium:MK, Winkelman has emphasised a style of football some would say is the antithesis of Wimbledon FC's trademark physicality.

The club also prides itself on its youth policy, bringing through the Tottenham and England midfielder Dele Alli, Milton Keynes-born and all.

Still the feeling towards the club runs deep in some quarters.

However, when the club made the move to Buckinghamshire, some Wimbledon FC fans followed. Dom Damesick was one of those.

The Wimbledon season-ticket holder was 12 when the club made the journey up the M1, and felt "the logical thing" would be to follow them, encouraging his parents to come with him when they could get there from their home in Surrey.

Dom Damesick
Dom Damesick's Wimbledon FC and MK Dons shirts side-by-side

"I don't really remember having a conversation about it like 'what's going to happen now?'," he said.

"When the move happened I was 12. Then, especially as my parents weren't particular big football fans, my interest was in the team. You idolise the players you grow up watching and that team moved to Milton Keynes, so it felt like a natural continuation to follow them.

"Now I'm older and understand more about the importance of a football club to a local community, I think if the move happened now it would give me more pause for thought.

"But, having said that, Wimbledon was a failed football club and going out of business. Milton Keynes gave that football club a chance to have a second life. I don't think it's the same football club, in the same way I don't think AFC Wimbledon is the Wimbledon FC."

Damesick became a MK Dons season-ticket holder in his late teens and insists there is no denying there is a rivalry between the two clubs, even if it is "unconventional".

He says he knows of around 100 fans who have made the same switch of allegiances as he did, and hopes people would not begrudge him supporting the club, in the same way he does not begrudge AFC fans.

MK Dons
MK Dons fans hold up a banner in the first-ever meeting of them against AFC Wimbledon

"I don't think the people that go and watch MK are the reason that Wimbledon ceased to be," he added.

"I suppose you could say if people hadn't gone to watch MK Dons then the move would have failed, but that wouldn't have brought Wimbledon back. There's a needless spite.

"I think there are greater evils in modern football like people staying at home and watching on TV rather than going out and supporting local lower-league football, corruption in football, the amount of money at the top of the game and people getting priced out of seeing their team.

"These are much more damaging to football in this country than people having local football put on their doorstep and going out and watching that."

The AFC Wimbledon fan attending

Not all AFC Wimbledon fans have decided to forgo the trip to Buckinghamshire.

Season-ticket holder Steve Dowse grew up close to Plough Lane and will be one of an estimated 2,000 AFC fans in Stadium:MK to see his side face a team "with a silly name", as he puts it.

"I can't see MK as just another club - they stole our league place," said 47-year-old Dowse, who remembers Wimbledon FC's Southern League days in the 1970s.

AFC Wimbledon fans
AFC Wimbledon are moving closer to a return to Plough Lane, after the government decided not to call in their plans

"I didn't go to previous cup games on principle. My sons are keen to go this time and I'll be going with them.

"This will be the first league meeting between us and I'm looking forward to reminding them that, whatever the result, we're currently above them in the league.

"We've achieved this the right way, working our way up the pyramid. Perhaps if MK had done that, I might have some respect for them."

And the MK Dons supporters

The move to Milton Keynes, a new town of around 200,000 in 2003, introduced a totally new set of fans to a local Football League team, including MK Dons season-ticket holder Liam O'Brien, who now writes a blog about the side.

O'Brien has defended Winkelman in the face of accusation by AFC fans, after, in his eyes, saving a club playing away from its spiritual Plough Lane home and struggling financially.

MK Dons
MK Dons won the first meeting of the two clubs in December 2012 thanks to Jon Otsemobor's backheel winner in injury time

"The fact is, Wimbledon were most likely going to collapse anyway," said O'Brien. "There was no home for them. Fans were becoming increasingly frustrated about playing their games in Crystal Palace.

"So Pete Winkelman came along, suggested the move to Milton Keynes, and many agreed with him. Milton Keynes was viewed as the ideal place to move the club, with a vision to build a state-of-the-art stadium."

And how is the boycott by some AFC Wimbledon fans seen by an MK Dons supporter?

"Fans should be supporting their club whoever they play regardless of their views on the other team," said Valmik Devchand from MK Dons Fan TV.

"Given the form that AFC Wimbledon are in, it is likely that they can get a good result against fierce rivals, so boycotting the game because of past events seems inappropriate."

So what about the match itself?

Robbie Neilson
Robbie Neilson will take charge of his first MK Dons league match on Saturday, after replacing Karl Robinson at the helm

With all the conjecture surrounding the match, it is almost easy to forget there is 90 minutes of football to be played.

"If you're looking at this one on paper and focus on current form then AFC will win," said BBC Three Counties Radio commentator Luke Ashmead.

"The visitors have been defeated just once in 13 league games, not lost away from home in the league since the opening day of the season, and are just outside the play-offs courtesy of goal difference.

"Conversely, MK Dons are 19th, have recorded just one win in nine, and still haven't seen three points from a home game in the league this season.

"Games like this, though, have a tendency to turn that paper we often like to play the game on into the type of material dropped in a pink Milton Keynes recycling sack."

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